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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, a reversal

In Eric Grandberry v. Sup., Plainfield Corr. Facility (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 6-page opinion, Judge Easterbrook writes:

While Eric Grandberry was the head inmate law clerk at Indiana’s Putnamville Correc-tional Facility, he used computers to download legal materials for other prisoners. He also assisted the prison’s employ-ees. The prison’s librarian asked him to obtain and fill out a petition to stop child support, and another member of the library’s staff asked him to obtain and fill out forms that her daughter could use to apply for a divorce. Grandberry ful-filled these requests.

In April 2011 the prison sent the library’s computers to the Indiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis. Data recov-ered from the hard drives showed what Grandberry had done. He was moved to solitary confinement and charged with administrative offense 207, “Possession of Electronic Device.” This designates as an infraction the “[u]nauthorized alteration, use or possession of any electronic device … . (This offense includes accessing computers, software, the In-ternet, a facility LAN, etc. or using such in a manner not au-thorized by the Department of Correction … .)” A discipli-nary officer revoked 30 days of his good-time credits.

Grandberry sought federal review under 28 U.S.C. §2254. After the district court denied the petition, a panel of this court concluded that he did not need a certificate of appeal-ability. Grandberry v. Keever, 735 F.3d 616 (7th Cir. 2013). Alt-hough every other court of appeals that has considered the subject would require a certificate in a case arising from the revocation of good-time credits, see Hayward v. Marshall, 603 F.3d 546 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc) (collecting authority), the panel declined Indiana’s request to overrule Walker v. O’Brien, 216 F.3d 626 (7th Cir. 2000). The appeal was then briefed and argued on the merits.

Grandberry contends with some force that the prison did not use all constitutionally required procedures. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). He also contends that the charge against him is not supported by evidence—and as that argument, if accepted, would prevent the prison from holding a second hearing, we start there. We end there too, because the record does not contain evidence that Grandber-ry used the library’s computers without authorization. Superintendent of Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445 (1985), holds that the Constitution allows a state to revoke good-time credits only when “some evidence” supports the decision. That’s not a high standard: the Court observed that it entails less than the “substantial evidence” standard commonly used in adminis-trative law, and materially less than the “beyond a reasona-ble doubt” standard used in criminal proceedings. But there must be some evidence; here there is none.

True, Grandberry downloaded forms related to child support and divorce, even though these were outside his remit as assistant to prisoners who needed support with problems arising from their custody. But the offense of which he was accused entails the “unauthorized” use of a computer, including “accessing … the Internet … in a man-ner not authorized by the Department of Correction”. Indi-ana concedes that employees of the prison directed Grand-berry to do exactly what he did. His conduct therefore was authorized.* * *

Indiana maintains that Grandberry failed to alert the dis-trict court adequately to his argument that he acted with of-ficial authorization. Perhaps so, but the state bears the prin-cipal responsibility. It refused to provide Grandberry with the full investigative report, so he could not be sure exactly what he supposedly did wrong. The prison’s hearing officer stated that he found the report persuasive but did not so much as hint at its contents, leaving Grandberry in the dark when asking the district court for relief. Not until this case reached the court of appeals, and we appointed counsel to assist Grandberry, did the state disclose the full report—and then only to counsel. (Grandberry now has a redacted ver-sion, which is more than he was armed with in the district court.) Counsel’s appellate arguments on Grandberry’s be-half are more complete and focused than his pro se argu-ments in the district court, but he made a comprehensible due process argument and is entitled to elaborate on appeal. Cf. Lebron v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 513 U.S. 374, 379 (1995); United States v. Billups, 536 F.3d 574, 578 (7th Cir. 2008).

The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus restoring Grandberry’s good-time credits.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 10, 2014 02:17 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions